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Catherine Beattie finds a spa for every taste and budget on Portugal's sunny Algarve.

Revitalising in the Algarve

Want to experience the energising benefits of thalassotherapy, or to have Ayurvedic, traditional Thai, thermal mud treatments or a really good massage? You’re sure to find a spa to suit your needs in the sunny Algarve, says Catherine Beattie. 

With an unrivalled choice of outstanding spas within luxury hotels and five star resorts, the Algarve is undoubtedly one of Europe’s top spa destinations. Most spas welcome day guests, so you don’t have to be a resident to enjoy the superb treatments and state-of the-art facilities. Always reserve treatments in advance to avoid disappointment, as the spas are often fully booked during peak holiday periods. 

Modern Resort 
The Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort and Spa is a striking modern resort with 154 spacious rooms and suites, all with balconies or terraces overlooking nearby golf courses or the hotel’s colourful gardens and outdoor pool. 

The superb 7Spa is Portugal’s largest spa, inspired by the ancient science of the seven ‘chakras’ or energy centres of the body. Amenities include hot and cold hydro-massage pools, steam bath and saunas, waterfall experience showers, a water tunnel, ice fountain and Zen garden. Treatments include seven different types of massage, facials and body treatments for men and women. Three-day slimming, anti-stress and anti-ageing spa programmes cost from €600. 

I tried the Chocolate and Pepper Wrap – a hydrating and relaxing anti-cellulite treatment that also included a salt scrub and a soak in a bath with massage jets and chromatherapy lights. After the application of the delicious smelling chocolate and pepper wrap, I was wrapped up in polythene sheeting and weighted covers and left to ‘cook’ for 15 minutes, while my face and neck were given a pleasant massage. After a refreshing waterfall shower, the treatment finished with a relaxing body massage. 
Verdict: An indulgent treat in a relaxing spa environment. 

Family favourite beside the sea 
Hotel Vila Vita Parc is one of the Algarve’s most well established resorts and is situated above a sandy beach. Guest rooms are set amid the extensive gardens, as is the Vila Vita Spa, which offers beauty and wellness treatments and a range of medical spa services and therapies. 

My Japanese Kanebo anti-ageing luminising facial was a delicious treat! First, my face was first double cleansed with oil and cream and then removed with hot towels (a feature of Kanebo facials). A foaming enzyme exfoliation was applied and was left on my skin while my face, neck and décolleté were deliciously massaged. More hot towels and an uplifting mask were applied to my face, neck and décolleté plus a nourishing eye mask. While the products worked their magic, my hands and arms were massaged. Finally both masks were gently removed and moisturising emulsion applied to my face and serum to the eye area. Result – cleansed and detoxed skin that looked noticeably brighter. 
Verdict: Outstanding therapists and quality treatments make up for rather dated spa facilities. 

Golf & Spa Resort 
Vila Sol is another of Vilamoura’s five-star resorts, offering a range of accommodation and activities for individuals, couples and families. In addition to a championship golf course, tennis courts, swimming pools it also offers a modern and spacious spa with 22 treatment rooms, a hammam and other facilities. All treatments are preceded by a 30-minute session in the warm hydrotherapy pool to relax the body. 

My Sea Shell Experience started with a fragrant footbath, followed by a Moroccan body scrub. Unfortunately, this made my skin quite itchy in places and slightly detracted from my enjoyment of the massage that followed with shells and warm rose and lemon oil. That said, the massage proved soporific – I nodded off on one of the relaxation room loungers afterwards! 
Verdict: Friendly and modern resort ideal for sporty families and spa lovers. 

Destination Spa 
The new Longevity Wellness Resort opened this year and is Portugal’s first anti-ageing Medical Spa within a resort environment. Located a short distance from the coast in the green hills of Monchique the new resort is close to Caldas de Monchique – the region’s only natural spa (see last entry). 

The resort specialises in health management and preventative medicine with three, five and 15-day packages (Preventative Medicine, Beauty & Slimming, Detox & Stress Management, Ageing Management and Rejuvenation) that include medical consultations, personal nutrition plan and meals, traditional and holistic massage and relaxation therapies. Accommodation is in 195 spacious one-bedroom apartments – all with two bathrooms, balcony or private garden terrace, cable TV and broadband connection. 

Most guests come to enjoy the beautiful setting, pampering spa treatments and state-of-the-art facilities. There’s a gourmet restaurant with wellness cuisine, driving range and putting green, external pools, indoor heated pool, games room, library, cyber café, cinema and gym with Powerplate and the latest high-tech equipment.
Verdict: An eco-friendly luxury destination spa with excellent medical and wellness facilities. Best for individual guests and couples. 

Thalasso Spa 
Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort overlooks a beautiful sandy beach and is home to Real Spa Thalasso, an authentic thalassotherapy spa with a large seawater pool heated to 35°C, with showers, massage jets and a contra-flow swimming lane. At this temperature, trace elements in the seawater are absorbed through the skin, helping the body regenerate and heal. Thalassotherapy is a medically approved treatment for degenerative disorders like rheumatism, arthritis and back pain and is also helpful in neurological, circulatory and metabolic disorders. It also a beauty and slimming aid, especially when used in conjunction with toning and detoxifying seaweed wraps. 

After a most enjoyable session in the large thalasso pool, therapist Georg gave me a superb body massage in one of the spa’s candlelit treatment rooms. He ironed out knots of tension in my back and shoulders then gave my feet a thorough work out too! I danced back to the changing rooms! 

The spa offers one week ‘cures’ including four thalassotherapy sessions a day from €749 per person, including half-board hotel accommodation.
Verdict: A friendly beachside family resort with the added bonus of an excellent thalasso spa. 

Thai Sanctuary
The stylish Tivoli Victoria Hotel opened the Elements Spa by Banyan Tree in 2009. It is one of the Algarve’s loveliest new spas with treatments inspired by Asia’s ancient healing traditions. Diminutive, smiley Thai therapists carry out indulgent facials, massages, body treatment packages and grooming services. All spa treatments include a soothing footbath and a 30-minute relaxation. 

The spa wing is on the first floor and has its own pool, indoor /outdoor relaxation areas and spacious treatment rooms with en suite changing facilities – no padding about in slippers and gown here! Service is faultless, as is the attention to detail – flowers under the treatment table to catch your eye when lying on your front. 

I opted for the Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage. No hula music, but lots of long sweeping movements from head to toe, as my therapist used her thumbs, elbows and palms to ease out tension and loosen my muscles. The whole experience left me feeling relaxed and energized. 
Verdict: Expensive but fabulous! 

Thermal Spa
Caldas de Monchique is the Algarve’s only natural spa and dates back to Roman times. Situated in a lush green valley, Monchique is a charming spa village set around a shady square with a just handful of small hotels, restaurants, a wine bar and handicrafts shop. The Thermal Hotel houses the original bathhouse, now fully updated with modern bathing facilities, innovative medical techniques and spa treatments by professional staff. Hotel guests can use the outdoor swimming pool and children’s pool, surrounded by pretty gardens with a bar, umbrellas and loungers – perfect for refreshing dips in the summer. 

Monchique’s mineral-rich thermal waters are particularly effective for treating digestive, respiratory, rheumatic and locomotive disorders and are also used in spa facials, massages, body wraps and more. Wellness programmes cost from €220 for two days and two nights and include accommodation with breakfast and half board, spa treatments and access to the Thermal Circuit (indoor swimming pool with water massage, sauna, steam bath and gym).
Verdict: Well worth a visit. A traditional thermal spa with an excellent choice of reasonably priced treatments. 

For further information on the spas and resorts featured visit the following websites:The Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort and Spa Hotel Vila Vita
Vila Sol, Vilamoura
Longevity Wellness Resort
Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort
Tivoli Victoria Hotel
Caldas de Monchique www.monchiquetermas.comMonarch offers flights to Faro from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton (summer season only) and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £46.50 one way (£83.99 return). Seats can be pre-booked at £7.50 per one-way flight.
Thanks to the Algarve Promotion Bureau for kind assistance with this feature.
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